Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Folly of Teaching in Government Schools

My husband sent me this from here and I found it very interesting.. Any thoughts from anyone out there?

R.C. Sproul Jr. on why Christian teachers ought not teach in government schools

"Your wife was a public school teacher. My wife and I are both public school teachers. My parents were also public school teachers. We are all believers in Christ. It seems that in your articles and books (Bound for Glory, Eternity in our Hearts, and Every Thought Captive) you have a severe dislike for the 'government schools' and the 'priests of the government schools'. Why are you so strongly against Christian's in the education field? Don't you think we need Christian teachers in public schools?"

First, to the gracious gentleman who asked this question, my thanks for the kind and tactful way in which the question was asked. This is especially gracious given that my own rhetoric tends to grow rather warm on this issue. I will try to answer honestly and graciously, without giving away the store. Second, it is important to make an important distinction. While in the end I think it important for both Christian students and teachers to leave the government school system, the case for getting the children out is by far the stronger, clearer case. The two are related, but not at all the same.

It is my conviction that education is everywhere and always inherently religious. That is, education is that process by which we pass on to our children our most deeply held convictions. An education that does not begin, end and stay focused on the lordship of Christ over all things is, in the end, not a sound education.

I deny that there is a body of information out there that is separate and distinct from the Lordship of Christ. As I have stated before, 2 and 2 makes 4 because it is Jesus’ 2 and Jesus’ 2 and Jesus’ 4.

Christians who wish to teach in the government’s schools are left therefore with three choices. First, they can give the children a sound education. Here they are eager to affirm the Lordship of Christ at all times and in all places. There are, however, two problems with this approach. First, any teacher doing this would be violating the law. Every state in the union forbids teachers from teaching this way. Second, any teacher teaching this way will also be violating the law of God. That is, you would be failing to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is ungracious, unkind and unfair to tax unbelievers for the purpose of paying your salary to evangelize their children. This, of course, is what the entire system does, only it evangelizes children into the worship of the state. The solution isn’t to take the system and use it to evangelize for Christ. The Christian thing would be to tear the whole thing down.

The Christian teacher next has this option. He can remain silent about the Lordship of Christ. Here he will honor his superiors in the system. He will be able to keep his job. But he will not be speaking truthfully to the students. He will, long before we get to “health” class, biology class, or any overt attacks against the faith, communicate to the children under him that the Lordship of Christ is something worth negotiating over, something of indifference to an education. The teacher is teaching this, “You can be educated in a place where the name of Jesus is never mentioned.” Which is fundamentally false.

The third option is to attempt to carve out a niche between the first two options. This, I presume, is where my brothers and sisters in Christ most often see themselves. They are trying, in a desperately wicked system, to let a little light shine. They are trying to witness through their lives, in the hopes of being a help to the children. Those are noble motives, and should be seen as such. They are, however, in my estimation, doomed to failure.

I tell my well intentioned friends who remain in apostate mainline denominations, so that they can “Reform from within” that all they are managing to communicate is that however bad it might be to deny the authority of Scripture, no matter how bad it might be to deny the resurrection, no matter how bad it might be to ordain practicing sodomites (which, truth be told is far less serious than the first two), that none of it is worth separating over. In like manner, whatever you manage to get through, however free you are to dishonor your bosses and their wishes (it makes no difference if your principal is with you on this. Sooner or later up the ladder you have superiors who don’t want you witnessing for Christ) you are still communicating to parents and the students, “This little light of mine is enough.” You are saying to the children, “You can live a God honoring life by keeping your Bible, unopened, on your desk.” You are saying to the children, “You can understand the world without understanding the Lordship of Christ.” You are saying to the children, “A little, unspoken, subtle Christianity is enough.”

I know that isn’t your intention. I know you’re trying to do right by these children and their parents. But you can’t, not just because the schools must be secular, but because they are financed by taxes of people of other faiths. The more you succeed the more you cheat the parents. The more you fail, the more you cheat the students. Trying to walk in the middle you cheat both.

This is why I don’t believe Christians should teach in the government schools. I understand that my position is an unusual one. I understand that fine men and women, godly men and women disagree with my position. I pray we can disagree while still remaining friends.

One last point. Please also understand that my most angry rhetoric is directed at the system itself, not well meaning Christians who are in the system. That is, at the end of the day, because all education is inherently religious, the state schools will inculcate the religion of the state, Caesar worship. That is why the system is an abomination. Don’t ever let anyone tell you the schools are failing. They are doing exactly what they are designed to do.

Do you have a question for R.C.? Send questions (printed anonymously) to: info@highlandsstudycenter.org and put "A Question for R.C." in the email heading. Eventually these questions and their answers will be included in the weekly (or so) email from the Highlands Study Center, The Kingdom Notes, featuring a short, encouraging word from R.C., as well as the latest news, specials, and other interesting things going on. To subscribe, send an email to info@highlandsstudycenter.org and tell them that you want to receive the Kingdom Notes.


Meredith said...

Reading this article was very painful for me.

I think that if you assume that Christians can't truly be light (or enough light) in the public school system, then you logically have to rule out most other secular occupations. I mean, if you aren't your own boss, then you probably don't have full freedom to evangelize or speak truth within your workplace.

It's kind of like ESL teachers in China. The government forbids Christian teaching. Should ESL teachers then leave China? How far do we take this? Does this rule only apply to America?

My frustration with Sproul's article is that he assumes that Christians can't be light in the public school system. Sure, we can't spell out the salvation message to students, but we can live out the gospel in front of them. St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." We can pray for them, and you know...the message of the gospel is powerful, but prayer is powerful too. And you can pray, pray, pray for your students.

The great thing about English is that you *can* legally teach about Christianity, at least, in American and British Literature. So much of it was founded in a Christian world view -- Beowulf is a Christian text, for example. The very first English poem ever written is "Caedmon's Hymn" is about praise to God for His creation. Hawthorne's works are saturated with Puritan doctrine. We read a sermon by Jonathan Edwards in high school. There are countless other works that have Christian truth in them too.

There are ways to be light. And small light is better than no light, in my opinion.

Glenn said...

For the most part, I agree with what he's saying. I would only be interested to discuss with him how he believes we should go about training and teaching in higher education institutions. In other words, does he believe that we should not educate ourselves in the "best" schools available (regardless of theological bent) in our desired field of vocation if they do not teach Christ above all things?

Take my education. If I wanted to be an Engineer, where would I go for an accredited degree in Engineering that would allow me to get a job doing that type of work? I don't know of any accredited degrees in Engineering that teach that Christ is Lord over Engineering. Not that they don't exist, but I certainly don't know of any.

My point is, they just don't exist and I would be highly surprised to think that God doesn't want Christians doing Engineering and working in that field to show the supremacy of Christ in all things.

I would say that our initial education needs to be fundamentally Christian, but once we get into training for our careers, we should select the education that will give us an honorable standing (among men) in our vocational career, allowing us to expand the teaching of Christ's Lordship in all things.

Regarding those who want to teach in higher education, I would certainly like to think that they would have more flexibility to express their religious views than lower education allows, but still, if one is wanting to teach in higher education, it would be worthwhile for them to establish schools that do offer degrees in all areas of work while maintaining and teaching that Christ is Lord of all.

Just some thoughts.

Glenn said...


I understand your frustration and I think you ask some good questions. If you happen to see my comments after yours, I think I would ask if Sproul, Jr. has a valid distinction between teaching and other types of vocations.

The teaching vocation is essentially a VERBAL vocation who's primary way of ministry is through words. This means that disconnecting all of your ministry, which is verbal, from the Gospel means that it is in some way very unhelpful to the people receiving it. But please don't hear me say that Christian teachers are not used by God in these places. I'm simply trying to make an observation.

Second, we all need to understand a very important perspective that Sproul, Jr. is coming from... the public school system was never and can never be intended to give the children of believers a legitimate/valid education that aligns with the Bible's expectation of educating our children. I say this because our children must be given some form holistic Christian worldview education in all disciplines while they are growing up in the Gospel under the authority of their parents. So, what Sproul, Jr. is saying is that all Christian's should not have their children in public schools and thus Christian parents and teachers should make it a priority to teach in places that offer a Christian structure that teaches that Jesus is Lord of everything.

Now, for those Christians who do not have children of their own to educate and do not have a necessity or place to offer their teaching skills in an exclusively Christian education setting, I would probably disagree with Sproul and say that those Christians should feel free to teach where they want, even if their are some conflicts of interest.

The main concern for us in America today should be pulling our children out of non-Christian schooling and preparing them through Christ-centered teaching (homeschool/private school), for the secular college world of higher education. The issue of higher education schooling is something I might disagree with Sproul, Jr. on too, but this is simply my view of the problem and solution for how our kids should be initially educated before higher education levels begin.

I understand that one might say that this leaves the non-Christian kids out to dry... but I don't see how a Christian teacher who cannot teach and disciple the whole family will ever make a practical difference in the lives of children who's families teach them to hate Jesus and never find the ministry of the Gospel in the local church. I'm not saying that God will not do special things contrary to what I'm saying will happen, but I do think that their are bigger fish to fry regarding the education of the children of believers and the establishment of valid, Christ-centered schools that show and teach how Jesus is Lord of every area of our lives.

Anything that teaches otherwise, such as the public school system, needs to be torn down and something better built in its place.

mrsidotf said...


I would say that in some ways his thinking is very radical. But I would say too that we are called to somewhat radical thinking as believers.

When I did teach I felt that struggle that he was talking about. I shared my faith often and what I believed, but I was not supposed to. The school that I taught at was not against this, my principal was a believer. But I was doing so against the state. I do feel like I was a light to the students and my co-workers. I do feel like I was showing them Christ and that was a great mission field. But I can understand what he was saying too.

I do not want for my kids to be under the governmental schools. I saw on your blog that people had issues with those terms, but that is what they are. You will see when you teach that they are run by the government and that is what public education is all about. You have to meet their standards and teach what they tell you. You may have some freedom, but not a lot- depending on your principal and county.

I say all this to say that I could not teach the way I wanted to. I felt very torn because I wanted them to see that Christ was the reason for all of this, and that we are learning all this for God’s glory and to be more like Him…but I could not teach it that way. You have boundaries and I think that Sproul, Jr. was trying to make the distinction that our children, that is children of believers, should not be taught this way. We want them to see things through a Christian perspective and that cannot happen in the public school- even if the teacher is a Christian. They can live the life, but not share the truth (verbally that is). I know that the Holy Spirit can work through that and He does. But I think that the bigger picture is that our children are somewhat brainwashed with curriculum and teachers opinions instead of what the Word says. I know that those words sound harsh but I experienced it growing up in the public schools and teaching in one. You can see teachers and how they think and how they teach the children. I was outraged by some! The kids are sponges when they are little and often they believe more of what their teachers say instead of what their parents’ say- that is a very scary thing, especially if the teachers are not believers.

I do not think that he is saying we cannot be lights in the school system. I think he is trying to point out more of what I was trying to say. His language is pretty harsh, but I think it is because he is very passionate about families and wanting children to grow up hearing the truth.

Hope this helps some!!

Meredith said...

"But I think that the bigger picture is that our children are somewhat brainwashed with curriculum and teachers opinions instead of what the Word says."

For families who are not Christian, I definitely think there is some brainwashing that goes on in the minds of unsaved children. But my parents always taught me truth even though I was in a public school. Our family was faithful in church, and that taught me truth too. In the fifth grade, I remember inviting my science teacher to a Judgment House play, and I remember telling her that God created the world and that evolution is untrue. I also told my Mormon friend in the fifth grade that she didn't believe in the true God. Christian parents and the Church have more influence over their children than the public school system does, you know?

Anyway, I posted my response to Glenn on my blog. Do you mind letting him know I responded? Thanks! :)